DO : trois fonctions, un schéma

Graham Ranger

Lire ce document
Abstract :
Le présent article traite des différents emplois de DO en anglais, verbe lexical, proforme et auxiliaire, et s'interroge sur la possibilité de trouver une valeur fédératrice à ces trois acceptions. On considère que DO peut être représenté comme l'image abstraite de la prédication, les acceptions auxiliaire et proforme étant, respectivement, des exploitations quantitative et qualitative de ce schéma.
Given this sort of corpus, one can easily distinguish three functions for DO: auxiliary (1), proform (2) and lexical verb (3). Two syntactic arguments may be used to distinguish these three different functions. Firstly, DO in (2) may be replaced by the verb to which it anaphorically refers, whereas in (1) this replacement is impossible. Secondly, and concomitantly, one can add the base form of the verb, albeit somewhat superfluously, after DO in (1), whereas in (2) the same manipulation is quite impossible£. It is interesting to look at why the last utterance mentioned should be unacceptable. In the light of the theory of enunciative operations, we suggest that it is because the predicative relation forms a locator, enabling us to situate a certain degree of /loudness/. Now a locator is axiomatically beyond all possible debate i.e. enunciatively stable. If we admit that auxiliary DO is used when the validation of the predicate cannot be taken for granted, then it is easy to understand why *Can you talk as loudly as he does talk? is impossible. This begs the question of how DO does in fact function in such utterances. We suggest that auxiliary DO functions quantitatively, insofar as it is the trace of an operation bearing on the existence of the predicative relation, but that proform DO functions qualitatively, referring back to the notional content of some contextually present predicate. This also explains why auxiliairy DO allows ellipsis of the base form of the verb, since a debate bearing on the validation of a predicate necessarily presupposes a predicative relation. One can go on to describe lexical DO as a marker which combines both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the auxiliary and proform. Thus, lexical DO signals the spatio-temporal inscription (the quantitative aspect) of some notion functioning as a verbal process (qualitative aspect), enabling the speaker to transform, so to speak, other types of notion so that they function as processes. Thus one might compare the minimal pair: They made a cake and They did a cake, where, in the second example, did a cake (which is quite acceptable) enables us to associate to the notion /cake/ a certain series of necessary gestures etc. and, by the same token, confers to the notion a spatio-temporal localisation, like a verb. One last remark concerns the existence of complex proforms such as DO IT, DO SO etc. which can be shown to be occurrences of lexical DO, such as we have characterised it, and some anaphorical element (IT, SO etc.) to which DO allows us to attribute quasi-verbal properties.
Published : 2004-07-15


Graham Ranger, « DO : trois fonctions, un schéma », Cycnos, 2004-07-15. URL :